Image source: 映画「一週間フレンズ。」公式 on Twitter

And it is as cute as the manga and anime that spawned it—if a bit more melodramatic.

One Week Friends is the story of high school boy Yūki and his classmate Kaori. Even after making a horrible first impression, he is surprised to see her go out of her way to return a book he forgets on the train. Seeing that the class loner is actually a good person underneath, Yūki resolves to become her friend. But each time he tries, Kaori turns him down. And soon enough, he learns the reason: each monday morning, she forgets any and all friends she’s ever had. Not deterred by this information, Yūki resolves to befriend her again and again each week if necessary.

Image source: 映画「一週間フレンズ。」公式 on Twitter

The first third of the film is set up showing the pair’s first meeting, Yūki’s repeated attempts to befriend Kaori, and the explanation of her unique condition. However, what breaks the ice between them—getting her to try their friendship—is the idea of an exchange diary that they trade each week. Kaori agrees to using the diary, but only under the condition that she gets to take it home each weekend (and thus use it each monday morning to “remember” their past together).

On Kaori’s side, most of the drama in the film is centered around the origin of Kaori’s unique condition—especially once a major player from her past transfers into the school. Soon we see that her condition is part physical and part psychological—and that each step towards to healing may be away from Yūki, not towards him.

Much of Yūki’s arc, on the other hand, is centered around his infatuation with Kaori and how he deals with it. While he clearly loves being around her, it is eventually called into question if, without her having memories, the two can really be considered friends. In a very real way, Kaori is reading the notebook each monday and acting like its contents are true. There is no emotional connection behind the words to make her act and feel as she would if she actually had those memories instead of just reading them.

An interesting addition to the film not present in the anime is a greater focus on Kaori’s parents and how they are dealing with their daughter’s illness. To them, it is more than a medical problem—though they take her to weekly doctor visits just to be sure. They are greatly concerned for her state of mind.

At her last school, Kaori was ostracized due to her condition. Thus, at her new school, they ask that she keep it a secret. Yet, when she makes friends with Yūki—a person who knows of her condition—they are heartened by how much happier she has become.

On the other hand, when confronting her past trauma lands her in the hospital, they become terrified—hoping for Yūki to back off and let everything return to the status quo. But in the end, they let their daughter decide. They both care deeply for her but know that if she is ever to overcome her illness, it is Kaori herself who will do it—the best they can do is to support her.

Image source: 映画「一週間フレンズ。」公式 on Twitter

The other new major addition is Yūki’s participation in the manga club. But while all the other members are making their own manga, Yūki is creating a stealth piece of artwork. After finding the thickest, never-checked-out book in the library, he begins creating a flipbook animation in its pages—with the expectation that someone years down the line will stumble across it and enjoy it. It also serves as the Chekhov’s Gun in the final climax.

[Major spoilers begin.]

Image source: 映画「一週間フレンズ。」公式 on Twitter

If the film has one problem, it’s the pacing of its third act. After the truth of her trauma is revealed, Kaori becomes able to remember her friend and first love Hajime—even as memories of Yūki continue to be reset each week. Taking this to mean Kaori has chosen Hajime over him, Yūki burns the exchange diary that serves as her memories after concluding that their friendship wasn’t as real as the one she shares with Hajime. The story then jumps a year as Yūki perpetually pines for Kaori and she is drawn into an ever tightening relationship with Hajime.

The problem with such a massive jump is that it paints Hajime as a horrible person—as he never tells Kaori about her friendship with Yūki—and paints Yūki as an unneeded martyr. It wasn’t that Kaori chose to forget Yūki, he burned her “memories” and the two men in her life basically conspired to keep the truth from her for an entire year.

While there is a happy ending of sorts at the end of all this, it is soured by the fact that, despite all the goodwill built up over the majority of the film, Yūki doesn’t really deserve his happy ending. If anything, Kaori deserves a person far better than either him or Hajime.

[Major spoilers end.]

Image source: 映画「一週間フレンズ。」公式 on Twitter

Though the third act is a bit rocky, the film largely succeeds due to some great acting from the two main leads. Haruna Kawaguchi’s Kaori uses silence far more poignantly than words. When Kaori meets people from her past or is asked about it, she can’t respond. She can only stand mutely. But even then, the emotion is clear and gives the other actors plenty to work off of.

Likewise, Kento Yamazaki’s Yūki stands out due to the actor’s grand smile. His joy at seeing Kaori grow is infectious. And the forced version of the smile—seen at the more dramatic points of the film—is simply heartbreaking. Yamazaki’s smile and Kawaguchi’s silence may be small things, but they truly bring the characters to life.

Image source: 映画「一週間フレンズ。」公式 on Twitter

In the end, One Week Friends is an above average manga/anime to live action adaptation. The plot fits its runtime well and, other than the implications caused by the time jump in the third act, the film is a great little story of friendship. Add to that some solid acting that brings the main leads to life, and you have a film that both fans of the manga/anime and newcomers alike are able to enjoy.

One Week Friends was released in Japanese theaters on February 20, 2017. There is currently no word on a Western release.

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